Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

A nightmare in the making

Aquatic Invasive Species cause for concern in Minnesota lakes


Sturgeon Lake is posted as having Eurasian Watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive plant species. Care must be taken to remove all vegetation and water from boats and trailers prior to leaving the public access area to prevent the spreading of Aquatic Invasive Species through Minnesota lakes.

Though Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) sounds like a theme from a science fiction movie, this concern for Minnesota lakes is real; it is ongoing, and it has no scenario where we wake up and it all goes away.

This past Labor Day weekend, the Windemere Lake and Landowners Association (WLLA) partnered with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Pine County Sheriff's Office to disseminate information at the public access areas of Sturgeon and Sand lakes.

Deputy Josh Matson, Pine County Sheriff's Office, and Clair Strandlie, Windemere Township supervisor and board member of WLLA, were stationed at the Sturgeon Lake public access Saturday evening.

"The sheriff's department got a grant from the state of Minnesota for deputies to come out to different landings within Pine County to check for invasive species," said Matson during an impromptu interview. Matson went on to say he was looking primarily for aquatic vegetation.

"All we're doing is making sure people drain their live-wells and anything that contains water, including bait containers," said Matson. "All water has to be drained before people leave the lake. Then we check to make sure they pull all the vegetation off their boat and trailer."

According to "Taking Care of our Lakes and Rivers," a brochure distributed during the weekend, forms of AIS include Curly-Leaf Pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil, Zebra Mussels and the Spiny Water Flea.

Sturgeon Lake is one of 275 Minnesota lakes facing the nightmare of AIS in the form of Eurasian Watermilfoil. Sand Lake is another. The brochure states that this long-stemmed plant can quickly form thick mats in shallow areas of lakes and rivers, which displaces native plants, impacts fish, and wildlife.

Eurasian Watermilfoil also disrupts swimming, entangles propellers on boats, and interferes with fishing and waterfowl hunting. It creates a mosquito habitat, cuts off native vegetation, and depletes the oxygen supply in the water.

Research reveals Eurasian Watermilfoil was first discovered in Minnesota in Lake Minnetonka, a highly popular recreational lake south of Minneapolis, in 1987. However, all efforts of management, including use of herbicides, plant eating insects, and mechanical cutting have not proven effective for total eradication AIS.

In fact, according to the DNR website (, cutting or pulling Eurasian Watermilfoil may actually increase its numbers because bits of the plants take root in new areas to create additional colonies.

As recreationists came and went from the Sturgeon Lake public access Saturday, Matson and Strandlie offered assistance and information on how to minimize the spread of AIS.

"Everybody today has been extremely cooperative," said Matson. "A lot of people I checked had been checked before, so they knew the routine."

Boaters are required to pull drain plugs from their boat each time they leave a Minnesota lake. Not going though this procedure could result in a citation and a fine. The law is in place to stop the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species.

One such group was Christina Labaire, from Eagan, her sons, Vincent and Sam, and a friend, Ethan Russell from Mahtomedi.

"We are waterskiing and burning the last tank of gas out of the boat before winter," said Labaire. "I've had this boat for 13 years so yes, you learn a lot about what you need to do. You do what the DNR says. Take the plug out, drain the water; make sure the boat is completely dry before you put it in another lake. Make sure all the vegetation is off the boat and trailer. It's all you really can do."

The Windemere Lake and Landowners Association board meets five times a year. One of its major concerns is AIS.

"We've been working on this Milfoil for eight or nine years," said Clair Strandlie. "Basically it just grows and grows and grows. You can never kill it. All you can do is slow it down. Today we're just trying to keep anybody from bringing anything else in here, or somebody taking what's here to another lake."

For more information on Aquatic Invasive Species, visit


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